Norodom Ranariddh is a Cambodian prince and politician. Though he has been active in politics for more than three decades, politics was not his first love. When he was a boy he aspired to pursue medical studies, but he was convinced by his grandmother, the Queen of Cambodia, that he should study law. He went on to get his PhD in law, but his heart wasn't in it. After spending a few years at the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research), he left it and went on to teach Sociology and Constitutional law at his alma mater, the University of Provence. He eventually left his role as a teacher to pursue a career in politics. As a member of the Cambodian royal family, life in politics was not easy. The early 1990s were his toughest times. He was made co-prime minister with Cambodian People's Party leader Hun Sen when Sen claimed voter fraud after the 1993 election. The resolution of King Sihanouk was to install himself as head of state and make both Ranariddh and Hun Sen prime minister. This relationship turned out to be no more than an extended power struggle, with the two sides exchanging military blows during the 1998 election. Although he has faced continuous adversity, he has remained a significant part of Cambodian politics, culminating with his reinstatement as FUNCINPEC president in early 2015.
Childhood & Early Life
Norodom Ranariddh was born on January 2, 1944 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He is the son of former Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk.
He received his early education from Norodom school and from Lycee Descartes in Phnom Penh. In 1958, he left for boarding school in Marseille, along with his half-brother Norodom Chakrapong.
In 1961, he completed his high school education and enrolled into the undergraduate programme of law at the University of Paris. He could not cope with the lifestyle of Paris and returned to Marseille in 1962.
He took admission in law faculty at the University of Provence and completed his Bachelors and Master’s in Law in 1968 and 1969 respectively.
He completed his PhD from the University of Provence in 1974.
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In 1969, Norodom Ranariddh got a job in the interior ministry. He was fired from this job in 1970 when General Lon Nol staged a coup against Prince Norodom Sihanouk and Ranariddh had to flee to escape political persecution.
In 1976, two years after receiving his PhD, he got a job as a research fellow at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CRNS). He left this job in 1979 to pursue teaching.
He returned to his alma mater, the University of Provence, shortly after leaving CRNS. Here, he taught courses in political sociology and constitutional law, and was an associate professor when he left it in 1983.
Ranariddh entered politics in 1983 when he joined Cambodia's FUNCINPEC party, which loosely translates to "National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful, and Cooperative Cambodia".
In 1985 he was made inspector-general of the party's army, known as the ANS. The following year he was promoted to commander in chief of the ANS.
In 1989 he continued his rise through the FUNCINPEC party by being appointed to the position of Secretary General.
In 1992 he finally ascended to the presidency of the FUNCINPEC party.
The Cambodian general election of 1993 was surrounded in controversy. At first Ranariddh wasn't going to run, but he was persuaded by other FUNCINPEC members after some attacks were made on party offices in rural areas.
In May 1993 the FUNCINPEC party won 58 out of the 120 seats of Cambodian parliament. The opposing Cambodian People's Party (CPP), led by Hun Sen and Chea Sim, threatened to secede from Cambodia over allegations of electoral fraud. This prompted King Sihanouk to get involved. He installed himself as the King of Cambodia and made Ranaridd and Hun Sen as First Prime Minister and Second Prime Minister respectively.
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All was well between Ranariddh and Hun Sen until 1996 but Ranariddh was unhappy with Hun Sen because he felt Hun Sen had more power even though he had a lower rank.
In 1997, Ranariddh was caught trying to secretly import heavy weapons to arm his troops against CPP forces. He was exiled to Bangkok after the fighting between the two parties escalated later that year.
In 1998 he was convicted of smuggling weapons and sentenced to a total of 29 years in prison. He was pardoned by King Norodom Sihanouk, who also came to his defense when he was exiled.
In November of 1998 a deal was struck between FUNCINPEC and the CPP and he returned to Cambodia. He was appointed to the position of Chairman of the National Assembly.
In 2006, he resigned from Cambodian politics in protest of the treatment of FUNCINPEC party members over the last eight years. He left Cambodia to live in France and later sought asylum in Malaysia in 2007 to avoid imprisonment for embezzlement charges.
In January 2015, he returned to the FUNCINPEC party, and was reappointed as party president.
In 1994,Norodom Ranariddh formed the Cambodian Development Council. In a span of six months he approved 17 development projects related to infrastructure development. His aggressive economic policies helped develop the country through foreign investment.
Ranariddh faced years of political turmoil in the early 2000s. He formed the Norodom Ranariddh Party in 2006 and the Community of Royalist People's Party in 2014. These were significant because they represented his dedication to democratically defeat the incumbent regime.
Awards & Achievements
In 1993, he was given the royal title of Senior Prince.
In 2000, he was awarded the Grand Officer de l’Ordre de la Pleaide by the La Francophonie, an international organization representing countries and regions where French is the mother or customary language.
In 2001, he was honored with the Grand Order of National Merit and the Order of Sovatara with the class of Mohasereivadh.
Personal Life & Legacy
Ranariddh married Eng Marie in 1968. The couple had three children together: Chakravuth, Sihariddh, and Rattana Devi.
Ranariddh and Eng Marie divorced in 2010 when it was revealed that Ranariddh was having a long time affair with Ouk Phalla and had two children with her, namely, Sothearidh and Ranavong. In the same year, Ranariddh married Ouk Phalla.